The media continues to report on the research that increasingly shows that there are big time IMMUNE abnormalities in AUTISM. Parents, we have been correct in our concerns about seeing our children with food allergies, skin reactions and chronic respiratory allergies. These were often the first signs that something was not right in our children as they regressed into autism. If you pay attention, you will also see comments from some news outlets that appear to downplay any connections, like this one --- “But having the immune abnormalities doesn’t mean a child will develop the disorder.” That phrase comes up four times in this one-page article from Science News. For many, keeping autism in the jaws of PSYCHIATRY with its origin in GENES seems to make people feel safer. If it were true that ANY baby or child could regress -- well, that thought is just too frightening but for many families, that is exactly what occurred. Something happened to the immune system and autism followed. Here’s the article and some key points:
- American kids with food allergies are more than twice as likely to have autism spectrum disorder as kids without, a study of national health data finds.
- Researchers looked only for an association between allergies and autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, among a total of 199,520 children ages 3 to 17 surveyed from 1997 to 2016.
- The team found that, out of 1,868 children with autism, 216 had a food allergy — or about 11 percent. By comparison, only about 4 percent of children without autism had a food allergy.
- Kids with autism were also more likely to have respiratory or skin allergies like eczema than kids without autism.
- The number of children with autism has more than doubled since 2000, to a prevalence of 16.8 per 1,000 kids. Meanwhile, the number of kids with food allergies rose from 3.4 percent in 1997–1999 to 5.1 percent in 2009–2011.
- It is unknown whether developing food allergies may contribute to the development of autism,
- Mice that developed a food allergy displayed behaviors characteristic of autism, such as repetitive behaviors and less frequent social interaction, a 2014 study published in Behavioral Brain Research found.
- The new finding supports the idea “that different manifestations of immune abnormalities occur in individuals with ASD,”
Here is the actual study: June 2018 - Association of Food Allergy and Other Allergic Conditions With Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children
I looked in Google News to see if other news sources were reporting this study but really none from the major media networks. That’s odd or maybe telling, as they pick and choose what they want the public to know. Here’s a few examples of some other reports:
Genetic Literacy Project - Is there a link between food allergies and autism?
A new study from researchers at the University of Iowa reveals a link between food allergies and autism, though many questions remain….Some medical professionals say parents shouldn’t overreact to the new study…..The new study is limited by the fact that rates of both allergies and ASD have been on the rise in recent years, and the findings rely on self-reported data that don’t provide a long enough timeline from which to draw conclusions. In some cases, self-reported data on children with food allergies and ASD might not be reliable because it can be hard to differentiate between an allergic reaction and aberrant behavior that might be explained by another factor.
Ha - sounds like another, “ blame the parent” as they won’t get it right, or be RELIABLE! And hey people-- don’t overreact!
The Kansas City Star - Autism and food allergies are linked, study suggests. But which comes first?
The findings, researchers said, add to a growing body of research that already suggests immunological problems as a possible risk factor for developing autism….The Iowa study found 18.73 percent of children with ASD also had respiratory allergies, compared with 12.08 percent of children without ASD who had them. It also found that 16.81 percent of children with ASD had skin allergies, compared with 9.84 percent of children without ASD….“I wouldn’t want people to misinterpret this to say that a food allergy is causing autism,” nor should children with ASD be routinely screened for food allergies, Sicherer told the Journal. One issue: Parents of children with autism might report their children have a food allergy, but it's not always possible to know whether it's really an allergy or simply a behavioral preference, Sicherer said….
Really? Sneezing, wheezing and being in GI pain -- and parents may not know if it’s for real? And this doctor is concerned about - what -- lines in his office of parents wanting a screening for food allergies? And a “behavioral preference”-- like diarrhea or constipation? That seems harsh and ignorant.
MEDPAGE TODAY actually did a nice job of reporting the research and NOT adding in opinion, especially from doctors or researchers not involved who seem to deny these immune connections. The mention of “environment risk factors” is good to see as well. - Food Allergy Most Common Allergic Condition in Autism Association persisted after controlling for other allergies:
The prevalence of ASD among children in the U.S. has increased steadily in recent decades, according to findings from nationally representative surveys, Bao and colleagues noted, explaining that immunologic dysfunction is a potential link between environmental risk factors and ASD.
….In analyses adjusting for age, sex, race/ethnicity, family highest education level, family income level, geographical region, and mutual adjustment for other allergic conditions, the associations between allergic conditions and ASD remained significant…. "The prevalence of both food allergy and ASD has increased over the past 2 decades. Although the underlying mechanisms for the observed association between food allergy and ASD remain to be elucidated, the gut-brain-behavior axis could be one of the potential mechanisms."
It’s important to make connections in science. For YEARS, smart and brave, researchers and doctors have made these points about autism -- Dysregulated immunity may not be confined to the intestine in affected children; many of affected children suffer recurrent prolonged infections, particularly of the upper respiratory tract, and there is a high prevalence of dietary allergy, eczema, and adenotonsillar hypertrophy...There appears to be, therefore, a paradoxical immune activation within the mucosal immune system that is associated with minor systemic immunodeﬁciency….In summary, a pattern is emerging of mucosal immunopathology in a cohort of children with regressive autism. (2003, PAUL ASHWOOD,1,2,6 SIMON H. MURCH,2 ANDREW ANTHONY,1,3 ALICIA A. PELLICER,2 FRANCO TORRENTE,2,4 MICHAEL A. THOMSON,2 JOHN A. WALKER-SMITH,2 and ANDREW J WAKEFIELD 1,5) HERE
I am a big believer in the gut-brain connections in autism. More and more research proves that it is KEY. It is crazy that the general public is kept in the dark too often by misinformation and denial.
Let’s add this recent study as another excellent connection from Dr. James Adams et al an ASU-led study shows deep connection between diet and symptoms of autism - Dietary interventions could greatly improve quality of life for those with autism spectrum disorder. The full study here .
“This study involved a randomized, controlled, single-blind 12-month treatment study of a comprehensive nutritional and dietary intervention….The positive results of this study suggest that a comprehensive nutritional and dietary intervention is effective at improving nutritional status, non-verbal IQ, autism symptoms, and other symptoms in most individuals with ASD.”
Here too, is a commentary to Association of Food Allergy and Other Allergic Conditions With Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children here. It seems well done and did not appear to minimize the issue of immune abnormalities in autism -
Children with ASD were significantly more likely than those without ASD to have food allergy (11.25% vs 4.25%), respiratory allergy (18.73% vs 12.08%), and skin allergy (16.81% vs 9.84%). The likelihood of the child having ASD more than doubled among children with food allergy compared with those without food allergy; children with respiratory and skin allergy were also significantly more likely to have ASD, but at a lesser magnitude. While no sex difference was found for food allergy, boys with ASD were significantly more likely than girls with ASD to have respiratory and skin allergy.
From a clinical perspective, patients with ASD who are minimally verbal to nonverbal may be unable to describe the pain and discomfort they experience secondary to food allergy and subsequent inflammation in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Instead, their physical distress may manifest as irritability, aggression, and/or self-injury. It is important to underscore the need for health care professionals to conduct a thorough history and physical examination to rule out identifiable medical causes of aberrant behavior, including food allergy and secondary GI inflammation, before proceeding with treatments designed to reduce behavior problems. In addition to GI pathology, other common comorbid medical disorders that occur with ASD include seizures and sleep disturbance. Interestingly, each of these comorbidities has also been associated with inflammatory processes.3,4 It may be that GI dysfunction, seizures, and sleep disorder, in addition to food, respiratory, and skin allergies, are medical comorbidities that characterize the immune-mediated subtype of ASD.
From that brilliant 2003 study above (Ashwood, Murch, Walker Smith, Wakefield et al), we can see that much of this information on autism and immune activation/allergies had been researched and reported. Fifteen years ago, these diligent researchers nailed it yet here we are, still reading studies and seeing the media try to ignore. Minimal progress was made in getting doctors to help. As parents of such ill children, we keep asking for proper medical care for our kids. Megan regressed into autism as GI reflux, food allergies, and skin rashes took over, as well as constant Strep and ear infections, then seizures took hold. She lives this balancing act still with her immune system, 22 years later, and more kids than ever are following that pattern. It seems that talking about the immune system and autism can become taboo. Thank you to all of the awesome researchers out there who care about our children and please ---- keep it up. Treatments for the devastating immune dysfunction are medically and morally necessary.
Teresa Conrick is Science Editor for Age of Autism.